I stopped at the corner trying desperately to remember the potholes and broken concrete I knew as a child. I creeped the car – like I would have back in the day – down the now perfectly manicured road with its “vintage” appeal, missing the cracked and crumbling concrete.
My family came to Minneapolis after being forced out of St. Cloud by folks who thought that two blind people could not be adequate parents. For as long as I can remember, 216 Fifth Ave. SE represented our roots.
As a kid my dad would take us down to the river and tell us stories about playing there as a child. We would trek into – what felt at the time like the woods – lining the river bank and pretend we were in Sherwood Forest. The rundown mills were a reminder of how the city started and stood as memory to its past. We would walk the cobblestone street towards Hennepin Avenue and Pops would tell me about working as a cook at The Wharf when he got the call that Mom went into labor. The joy in his eyes at that moment would quickly fade as he warned us of the dangers of St. Anthony Falls, telling us about his friends that have died there, and how he almost did. We would laugh and ask questions, he would tell us about Frankenstein’s Castle and how Nicollet Island wasn’t always so fancy. It used to be the place the homeless would gather at. Going up Hennepin, we would hear the stories of my Grandpa drumming at Nye’s and how he would sell pencils on the street to make a little extra money for the family. We would stop at Red Owl and pick up groceries for Grandma. Pops would remind us about how they would let the family keep a tab when times were tight and money was funny. This was my history. This was the landscape from which we were cut. It deserved my respect and honor. And it got it.
Today I drove by 216 Fifth Ave. SE, and saw college kids drinking on the deck. I found a parking spot on the all too familiar street feeling a bit surreal. When my grandfather passed away 34 years ago my family sold the house to The Pillsbury Company but continued to rent it to them. When my grandmother transitioned the house was remodeled and rented out to college kids, the U is big business. The landmarks are the same, but somehow barely recognizable.
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